Don King hails Ali as 'greatest of all time'


Don King believes Muhammad Ali's spirit will live on across boxing, sport and society after the great heavyweight champion died, aged 74.

The famously flamboyant and gregarious King initially made his mark in boxing as the promoter of the Rumble in the Jungle, where Ali produced a stunning eighth-round knockout to dethrone George Foreman and regain the world heavyweight title as a 32-year-old underdog.

King also promoted another of Ali's most iconic bouts - the brutal third and final meeting with Joe Frazier, the Thrilla in Manila, and he paid tribute to "the greatest of all time".

"Muhammad Ali was a man of the people, he was a fighter for the people," King told CNN. "I love Muhammad Ali. He was a friend for life and he will never die - his spirit will go on for ever.

"He represents what every athlete and sports person in life will try to do - an attitude of going out there and getting it done without any equivocation.

"He was just fabulous. A great human being, a champion of the people - the greatest of all time.

"He had an attitude where he cared for people. With young people and old people he would go out and do things without trying to find any type of publicity and aggrandisement. He would do it because it was in his heart."

Ali's legacy was solidified as much by his deeds outside as inside the ring, most notably in 1967 when he refused to be inducted into the US armed forced for service in Vietnam on the ground of his religious beliefs.

He quotes of "I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong" resonated around the world but resulted in a three-and-a-half year exile from the ring.

In 1971, the US Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction on draft evasion and, while many of his greatest nights lay ahead, King believes the world was robbed of seeing Ali at his very best.

"No one can truly say how great Muhammad Ali really was because during the height of his career is when he ran into the encounter of being charged with draft evasion," King added.

"He wouldn't go to the war but he was a conscientious objector and he believed in that. He stood his ground.

"They took him to all types of trials and tribulations but he rose to the occasion and would prefer to go to jail than break what he believed in. That's why everybody loved him.

"The Supreme Court of the United States vindicated him with that glorious decision that came in on his behalf and, wow, it was like heaven on earth for that young man.

"Those four years that he lost at the height of his career- they can never say how good he would have been because he did all this greatness after being held out from practicing his trade.

"He sacrificed that, he had something to lose and he stood the test of time. I love the man."